Accounting firms have faced a talent shortage for more than a decade. In what was already a competitive market, one of the outcomes of the post-pandemic environment is a significantly more competitive environment for talent.
Competing today isn’t just about posting open job positions. Today, firms must pay close attention to their employer’s brand and amplify it. They must have robust strategies to build and maintain solid brand awareness for themselves as a company to work for, not just to do business. Online reviews, employee engagement, and overall messaging and branding are more critical than ever. Mid-tier and smaller firms that have simply reacted when they have openings will need to invest more effort than they have to keep up.
For more than two decades, I have taken the approach that recruiting and retaining great talent is no different than bringing in new clients. The same concepts apply, the target is just different. As you look at how you approach your recruiting efforts and consider how to amplify your employer brand, consider these six points:
Know what makes you different as an organization
Differentiation is critical to your success and often one of the hardest things to do for any service-based business, including accounting firms. When it comes to recruiting, you have to zero in on not what clients think makes you different but how your employees see what sets you apart. Every business has a unique culture, just like any family. While some core things you could expect anywhere, such as certain benefits, your business’s heartbeat lies in the individuals who make up your organization and what they believe. Those are your core values. However, it’s not just enough to know this. You must use it in your marketing, your conversations, and your messaging.
People can’t buy what they don’t know exists
This is another longstanding quote of mine. If candidates don’t know your firm exists, they can’t come to work for you. Overall brand awareness is critical and a long-term strategy. Most firms in the small and mid-tier range put forth little effort to promote their overall brand. They might occasionally attend job fairs when they have an open position or speak at Beta Alpha Psi events, but few go beyond that. Building strong brand awareness among potential candidates is critical. No one will seek you out, visit your social media profiles, or want to consider engaging with your firm if they don’t know you exist.
Consistency is key
As with any marketing effort, consistency is key. Many firms recruit around filling a position. Firms must continuously recruit new team members just like they do for new clients. Ongoing efforts, regardless of open positions, are absolutely critical to keep up. They can’t focus on what is convenient from a timing standpoint. Candidates don’t learn about your cycles or those of the profession until they get into a firm. Organizations that show up and are front and center consistently will win more ground than those who skip it because it requires them to be out of the office for a few hours rather than filing a tax return.
Everyone can contribute
Firms often think recruiting is just a human resources responsibility. Like with practice development, everyone in a firm can contribute – and in different ways. Sure, you will have a few people who are really good at it, but that doesn’t mean others can’t help. Help everyone in your firm understand their role and responsibility to help attract and recruit talent. Simple things from being active on LinkedIn and staying in touch with classmates to promoting open job positions can go a long way.
Know your sales process
Whether you want to believe it or not, recruiting is selling, especially in today’s environment. Know your sales process and, more importantly, know how to sell your firm and how to identify what potential recruits want. Your firm’s ability to recruit talent is highly dependent on how well you sell your firm and the offers you make, especially if you aren’t one of the big firms.
Know your ‘buyers’
Part of attracting the right talent starts by understanding where they spend their time and how to attract them. The next generation of talent (Gen Z), millennials, and some more experienced Gen Xers use technology heavily. If your communication and application processes aren’t keeping up, consider an overhaul of your strategy. That includes everything from the tools you use to communicate to how you talk about your firm and where – and how – they find you. For example, explore live chat with a recruiter about an open position or video messages to candidates when you ask them to schedule a meeting. The channels you use will send a clear message to candidates.
The accounting profession’s talent shortage isn’t going away anytime soon. Firms must pay close attention to attracting, recruiting, and retaining the talent they need to survive for the long term.
By Sarah Johnson Dobek, President CPAsNET